How the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the census

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Minnesota and Wisconsin households are leading the country right now in the 2020 Census responses. In both states, more than 46% of households have been counted, compared to the 38% national average.

But more than ever, getting 100% participation is crucial.

Federal funding for public services like hospitals, emergency preparedness, school, police and fire departments are based on the population count.

"Here in Minnesota, we receive more than $15.5 billion each year on the basis of the census count," said Susan Brower, state demographer.

As the coronavirus spreads, every dollar of federal funding helps.

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"If we don't get an accurate count right now in 2020, this number is going to stick with us for the next 10 years," said Brower.

If a response for the household isn't received, census takers will go knocking door-to-door to collect the response, which is expected to start at the end of May. The time frame was delayed because of the pandemic. To avoid someone coming to your door, submit your census response.

This is the first year that instead of mailing in forms, the public can go online, and census workers say that is still a safe option. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, almost half of people responding are going to to submit. 

While some may be worried their information might be released if they fill out the census, community advocates say that's not the case.

"There is nothing to fear," said Fartun Weli, non-profit director at Isuroon. "If you're not counted, you don't exist. So you really have to be counted so that the state resources can be planned whether it's housing, education, health and everything else."

Weli explains that everyone should participate, including undocumented immigrants, because it also determines the number of seats in Congress.